You can forgive the Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team for leaving Colony junior Sullivan Menard a little too open from the 3-point line in the third quarter.
His last three had come and gone 18 minutes earlier in the game. Plus, he and the rest of the Knights offense were quiet through the first five minutes of the quarter.
But the 6-foot-3 guard caught fire from deep, scoring three 3-pointers in a row, the last of which put the Knights up 46-35 late in the third at the University of Alaska-Anchorage’s Wells Fargo Sports Complex.
JDHS drew within seven points of Colony in the fourth, but the Knights held on for a 71-59 win in the fourth-place game at the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska state basketball championships. The loss results in a sixth-place finish for JDHS, its lowest at the tournament in the last three years.
“Colony ran a couple different plays that they were able to hit some threes on and that turned the tide. And then we were playing catch up,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “Down the stretch, they did not miss a free throw in the second half, which is really impressive for a high school team.”
While JDHS shot only 16 of 30 from the line, Colony shot a blazing 19 of 23.
The senior class stood tall for JDHS like they had all tournament. Erik Kelly, the 4A boys player of the year, scored 20 points and posted 15 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Kolby Hoover, a member of the 2016 state champion team with Kelly, had 14 points and five rebounds in the final high school game of his career.
Seniors Luke Mallinger and Kasey Watts each had nine points in the loss.
Menard scored 17 points and freshman Patrick McMahon scored 19 for the Knights, the Northern Lights Conference runner-up.
JDHS got off to a slow start, going down 19-9 after the first quarter while contending with Knights’ full-court defensive pressure.
The Crimson Bears settled down in the second quarter, and the Knights committed their seventh team foul seemingly right away, putting JDHS in the bonus.
JDHS’ repeated trips to the foul line and heads-up play by Mallinger fueled a 7-2 run to end the half.
“Once we settled in I think we played with a lot of heart,” Watts said. “They are just a really good team, they are fundamentally sound and they got some quick guys and we just tried to stop them and things just didn’t play out the way we thought they would.”
It was the Knights leading 28-22 at halftime, but with the momentum on their side, the Crimson Bears quickly took the lead in the third quarter.
Watts’ 3-pointer capped an electrifying three-minute, 11-0 run to begin the second half and put JDHS up 33-28.
But Colony roared back to life.
With his team holding a delicate two-point lead later in the quarter, Menard went on his solo 9-0 run that helped the Knights take a 48-38 lead going into the fourth.
JDHS pulled within seven points of Colony several times in the fourth.
Both teams had something left to prove after losing in the opening round of the tournament.
No. 1 Dimond defeated No. 8 JDHS 48-39 while No. 6 West Anchorage upset No. 3 Colony 62-56 on Thursday.
It was a different story in the next round for the Crimson Bears and the Knights. JDHS earned a 59-52 win win over West Valley and Colony handed East Anchorage a 70-57 loss.
JDHS completes the 2017-18 campaign just shy of .500 at 14-16 overall.
“Truth be told, this team overachieved in a sense of what anyone expected them to (do) this year,” Casperson said. “We were third in our region, ranked 14th in the state based on the WPI (winning percentage index) and we ended up playing three tough games, picking up a win, and end up finishing sixth. So we definitely climbed up towards the end.”
The team graduates six seniors: Kelly, Hoover, Watts, Mallinger, Gammy Reyes and Christian Yadao.
Kelly and Hoover leave behind an accomplished run as four-year varsity players. Since their sophmore year, they have not lost at the Region V tournament or finished lower than sixth at state.
Hoover said he hopes he’s instilled that winning mentality among the younger players.
“I hope they continue to win for a long time,” Hoover said. “It’s been an honor playing for them and I hope they continue the winning we were able to accomplish over our years.”
While Hoover is uncertain whether there is more basketball in his future, Kelly intends to play in college. He says he’ll likely start at a community or junior college before trying to move to a bigger school.
“It’s definitely something I want to do because basketball has been a big part of my life,” Kelly said. “It’s just something I really want to do after watching all the teams on TV. Making it to that level is definitely a goal of mine.”
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.